As was entirely predictable, opponents of independence have spent the past couple of days frothing at the mouth. And as was equally predictable, not one of them have proposed any plans of their own for boosting Scotland’s economy within the UK. For a bunch of people who are very keen on telling Nichola Sturgeon that she should use the powers Scotland already has – at least powers that it has until Westminster decides to take them back – none of them have come up with any proposals for a Scotland within the UK which are remotely comparable to the Growth Commission report.
As part of the UK Scotland is shackled by the economic decisions made by Westminster. Scotland has the powers of a band-aid, but is not allowed to treat the underlying disease. A Scotland within the UK can do nothing to protect itself from decisions made by Westminster which are not in Scotland’s interests, all it can do is attempt to mop up some of the mess afterwards. It’s like being told that you should be using your ability to put a poultice on a minor skin rash when you’re being held down and your head is being kicked in by a gang of rabid Brexiteers.
The inability of opponents of independence to develop coherent and comprehensive plans for Scotland to grow its economy irrespective of the political and economic priorities of the British government is a tacit acknowledgement that a British Scotland is Blanche Dubois Scotland, always dependent on the kindness of strangers. Only in Scotland’s case the strangers in question are the British Conservatives, a bunch of people who have never knowingly done anything without first calculating what’s in it for them and how they can profit from it.
There’s much to be happy with in the report. It presents a detailed, cohesive, and convincing plan to grow Scotland’s economy. It is above all realistic, and means that the independence movement can no longer be accused of wishful or magical thinking. That now lies entirely with the British state and its increasingly delusional Brexit. The report means that Scotland has an infinitely more detailed plan about the future of its economy than the UK did before Brexit, and still does even two years after the vote to leave the EU. This report signals that the romantic nostalgic dreamers in Scotland’s constitutional debate are very firmly on the anti-independence side of the equation. Scotland can have the Growth Commission report, or along with the rest of the UK it can pursue economic plans which the EU has already ruled out.
It’s important to remember that this report is a discussion document, it is not a holy writ set in stone. It provides a solid foundation for economic discussions about the best way to develop the Scottish economy. What’s certain is that differences of opinion about the best way to develop the economy of an independent Scotland do not aid the cause of British nationalism, because none of the options under discussion are possibilities for a Scotland that remains under Westminster rule.
It’s perhaps regrettable that the Growth Commission report felt the need to set a definite timetable on the continuing use of the pound by an independent Scotland, instead of stating that Scotland would move to its own currency when it suits Scotland, and that preparations to move towards the new currency would start upon the country achieving independence. That would have gone some way towards ensuring the support of those who believe that a Scottish currency is an essential instrument for developing the economy of an independent Scotland. The currency proposals are the weakest part of the Growth Commission report and have been disappointing to many for their apparent timidity.
But we should recognise that the proposals in the report for the unilateral use of sterling by an independent Scotland for a period of time does achieve one vital goal, and that’s to destroy the British nationalist lie that Scotland needs Westminster’s permission to continue to use the pound. The political importance of that cannot be underestimated. The cry “You won’t be allowed to use the pound” has been silenced. Scotland will use the pound irrespective, and Westminster can’t prevent it.
It is eminently sensible for Scotland to do as this report does and to compare itself to other small developed countries. Scotland possesses resources and assets that most of those other nations can only dream of, Scotland has an embarrassment of natural resources, and a highly educated population. Yet those other small countries consistently out-perform Scotland on a variety of economic indicators. The reason is because of the macro-economic decisions made for Scotland as a part of the UK, decisions which Scotland can do little to influence. Scotland is blighted by inequality and deprivation, by huge differences in wealth and income. Economic studies consistently demonstrate that there is a correlation between reduced inequality and economic growth. Westminster’s policies promote inequality, and Brexit is only going to make that situation even worse.
Above all, the report is a realistic assessment that Scotland as part of the UK faces immenses economic challenges, and that getting out of the mess created for us by successive British governments is in itself going to be a challenge. It is an optimistic assessment of the potential of Scotland’s economy, a potential which is being squashed by a British state with very different priorities. It’s a report that demonstrates how an open and accepting Scotland that welcomes migrants is a Scotland that can thrive. It’s the opposite of the narrow and inward looking xenophobia that lies behind the British Brexit.
There is no status quo any more. Scotland faces a choice of challenges. Brexit brings challenges. Independence brings challenges. We only have a plan to tackle one of those challenges. We only have the power to influence the outcome of one of those challenges. The lesson to take here is that the choice facing Scotland in the coming independence referendum is going to be a choice between the challenge of independence, which is the challenge of rising to the top, or the challenge of remaining a part of Brexit Britain, which is the challenge of struggling not to be submerged. We can swim with independence, or sink as a part of the UK.
Mapa Gàidhlig na h-Alba / Gaelic Map of Scotland
The Gaelic map of Scotland is now available, the cost is £15 plus £7 P&P within the UK. Please note P&P outwith the UK is more expensive. P&P to Europe is £10, P&P to the rest of the world is £15. If you require multiple copies of the map, you only need pay once for P&P, up to 3 copies of the map which is the maximum that can fit in one postal tube.
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Please note that the map is currently at the printers and I won’t be able to start posting maps out to buyers until the week starting May 28.
The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.
Wee Ginger Donations & Speaking engagements
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